The Beauty Myth

Broken Face

Last week I posted from Dr. Schaumburg’s book Undefiled one indicator of the sexual problems here in America. Here is another problem he has encountered regularly in his thirty plus years of counseling. He calls it “the beauty myth.”

For men and women, “beauty” has become nearly synonymous with “sexy.” The beauty myth, an obsession with physical perfection, holds women in bondage to hopelessness, self-consciousness, and self-hatred. It intertwines sexuality and beauty to create the idea that a woman must be “beautiful” to be sexual and desirable in a relationship. Women say they “feel sexier” when they lose weight, but female sexual pleasure doesn’t multiply with weight loss.  Compared with sexual sin, the obsession with beauty  may seem like a minor issue. In reality, the impossible-to-achieve desire to secure an external “flawless beauty” destroys a woman’s sexuality and spirituality.

The “pornography of beauty” reshapes female sexuality. You see this in everyday magazine ads and in women’s magazines. Users of Photoshop have taken the picture of a three hundred pound woman in lingerie and turned her into a sex goddess. There is little that is real about such an image, but men and women will worship it. The image altering software easily creates the perfect hair, skin, and figure. The message is clear: “Look like that if you want to fee like that.” 

Why does a woman go under the knife for numerous facelifts in a desperate attempt to look younger? Why are girls much more self-conscious about their appearance today? Why did my mother, in her early nineties, still dye her hair? The beauty myth has obscured what is truly beautiful in a woman…Today we are easily duped into thinking that external beauty is all there is to woman.

More and more women believe they must have that face and look to have their needs met. Like sexual pornography, the pornography of beauty is based on a myth and both types of porn make a woman an object. If a man’s image and understanding of sexuality is distorted by pornography, I suggest there is a parallel effect on a woman’s image and her understanding of sexuality in the beauty myth.

Unfortunately, the beauty myth is winning the battle against sexual purity. In reality the ads don’t sell sex; instead they sell discontent, shame, and guilt. A woman will say, “I hate my body, my hips, my thighs, and my stomach.” This is at the core a deep sexual shame, which is destructive both relationally and spiritually. And this focus on external beauty is in direct contradiction to what Scripture teaches-that authentic beauty come from inside a person:

Do not let your adorning be external-the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear-but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hope in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening. (I Peter 3:3-6)

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